Dawgs duo dates back to childhood

By Tony McDaniel

Two teammates on the SIU softball team have each been Salukis for two years, but their days of playing together go back much further than Charlotte West Stadium.

Junior pitcher Alyssa Wunderlich and sophomore shortstop Kelsey Gonzalez have played softball together since they were children.

“We started playing on the same team when I was 10 and she was eight,” Wunderlich said. “We’ve pretty much been playing together for as long as I can remember.”


The two began their softball careers with the Naperville Diamonds, a youth softball team in their hometown. They played on separate summer league teams and were sometimes opponents. In high school, Wunderlich and Gonzalez took their talents to Naperville Central High School, where they found success finishing fourth in the Illinois state softball tournament in 2009.

Wunderlich said Gonzalez stepped up big for the Redhawks in their run through the tournament despite being a freshman.

“Kelsey did awesome. I didn’t pitch as much because my sister was a senior, she pitched most of those games,” she said. “We had great momentum and great team chemistry then and we made a great run. It was a lot of fun.”

Gonzalez and Wunderlich earned plenty of individual awards at Naperville Central. Both players were Dupage Valley All-Conference selections and Wunderlich was an All- State honorable mention in 2011.

All of their success warranted the attention of SIU softball coach Kerri Blaylock, who said both players had qualities that stood out.

“For Alyssa, it’s her size and in summer ball the way she commanded her presence on the mound,” Blaylock said. “I think Kelsey was just always really scrappy and a really good defensive player. I’m one of the types of people that can give up a little bit of offense to have a good defensive middle infield.”

Wunderlich is a year older than Gonzalez, meaning she signed with SIU one season before her high school teammate did. Gonzalez said playing with Wunderlich was vital in her decision to come to SIU.


“After she committed, that’s when Kerri started looking at me, and obviously [Alyssa] was encouraging me to go there,” Gonzalez said. “I trust her opinion a lot. The way I felt about the program, the team and the coaches, she felt the same. That reassured me and made my decision a little bit easier.”

Gonzalez and Wunderlich said they never thought that they would play softball together at the collegiate level.

“It just kind of worked out that way. We both fell in love with the school, fell in love with the program and both chose to come here,” Gonzalez said. “If you would’ve asked me years and years ago when we were little if we would’ve played in college together, I would’ve said probably not.”

In their time at SIU, both players have stepped into important roles for Saluki softball. Gonzalez starts at shortstop and is one of the top defensive players, her .972 fielding percentage is among the highest on the team.

Wunderlich is a power pitcher who has 18 strikeouts in 31.0 innings pitched this season. Blaylock said she is a great role model for the team as well.

“She’s a very hard worker, probably one of the hardest on the team,” she said. “If you could have a model of how you’d want your daughter to be, she would probably be it.”

Gonzalez and Wunderlich still have one more year as teammates at SIU before Wunderlich will graduate. Gonzalez said she hopes that the two of them can continue to make memories after their playing days are done.

“Hopefully we’ll be able to look back and have a conference tournament championship under our belt,” Gonzalez said. “I think that would be really cool.”

Tony McDaniel can be reached at [email protected]@tonymcdanielDE or at 536-3311 ext. 282